Science

SpaceX to launch Israeli spacecraft to the moon

SpaceX to launch Israeli spacecraft to the moon

The project began when young engineers - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - made a decision to build a spacecraft and take part in the Lunar Xprize competition sponsored by Google, which originally included a $20 million prize for the first group of contestants to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon.

Another goal of the mission is to discover the magnetic mysteries of moon rocks, officials said.

If successful, SpaceIL's mission will make Israel the fourth country in the world to "soft land" a probe on the surface of the Moon - after the former Soviet Union, the United States and China.

The dimensions of the spacecraft are 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) high and 2 meters (6.5 feet) in diameter.

Although this is an historic national achievement, it is essentially a private initiative by the three SpaceIL founders - Yariv Bash, Kfir Damari and Yonatan Winetraub - who strived to fulfill the dream of reaching the moon, and registered for the challenging Google Lunar XPRIZE competition.

Aerospace Industries Ltd. (which is run by the Israeli government) and the nonprofit SpaceIL are behind the plan to land an unmanned probe on the moon by February.

A group of private Israeli companies are joining the race to return to the moon, after NASA's recent cancellation of a lunar mission and India's announcement that in October it will send a rover to look for signs of water and nuclear fuel.




An artist impression of the Israeli space craft landing on the moon. SpaceIL was the first of 16 Google Lunar XPRIZE competitors to sign a launch contract and one of only five teams to reach the finals.

The first-ever Israeli moon mission will launch before the end of the year, if all goes according to plan. Building the spacecraft cost $95 million to date.

"What we're doing is we're trying to replicate the Apollo effect in the United States", Kahn told reporters, referring to the surge in interest in science and engineering after the USA space program landed on the moon in 1969. It will take about two months for the spacecraft to reach its destination after launch.

SpaceIL aims to set in motion an "Apollo effect" in Israel: to encourage the next generation of Israeli children to choose to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM); to change their perception of these subjects; to generate a sense of capability; and to allow them to dream big dreams even in our small country. Upon landing, the craft will relay photographs and collect data about the moon's magnetism for research by Israel's Weizmann Institute.

Along with Kahn, the Israeli Space Agency and US megadonor casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson are funding SpaceIL.

But SpaceIL has continued to work on its moon mission.


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